The Fiver | A starting point of reference for Mikel Arteta’s sterile Arsenal shower

The Fiver | A starting point of reference for Mikel Arteta’s sterile Arsenal shower

IT COULD BE WORSE; IT HAS BEEN WORSE

This is Arsenal’s worst start to a campaign since 1981-82. That season, a team with a defence featuring a 76-year-old John Hollins and Pat “I’m 83!” Jennings won just three of their first 11 matches, scoring a mere seven goals in the process, and found themselves sixth from bottom of the old First Division. The jig looked up for manager Terry Neill, who was given the dreaded vote of confidence. However, the board held their nerve, and were rewarded when Arsenal won their next six matches on the bounce. Something for everyone involved with the 2020-21 set-up to ponder, if only to conclude that Mikel Arteta’s sterile shower, also sixth from bottom, aren’t going to win their next half dozen, are they? But at least it gives us a starting point of reference.

History always teaches you something, though. While Arsenal’s current rabble look incapable of stringing together anything apart from dreary passing sequences which go absolutely nowhere, and while José Mourinho drapes himself across the opposite dugout with his feet up and a cigar on, they’re surely able to gather themselves and slowly fight their way back up the table, just like Neill’s team did all those years ago. The 81-82 vintage ended up fifth, which would have felt like eighth or ninth does these days, when you factor in stuff like modern Big Cup qualification, and old-fashioned concepts such as dignity. Arteta’s Arsenal could do ninth, right? A cinch.

In fact, drill down, and Arteta’s Arsenal compare favourably to Neill’s 1981 vintage, having one more point and a whopping three more goals after their first 11. Sadly, that hasn’t stopped some of the more melodramatic commentators, such as AFTV’s Douglas Sirk, from calling for Arteta’s head. Even taking into account the telescoping of culture and the time-warping effects of a year in lockdown, this seems a wee bit harsh given Arteta won Arsenal the Cup just over four months ago. So The Fiver preaches patience, with another nod to the past: in 1946-47, Arsenal were in the relegation places in December. They scrambled to 13th and won the league the year after. So keep the faith, because you never know. Well, you sort of know. But you never know!

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“That’s just disrespectful. The lad had a good game and scored two goals. He should have simply put the ball over the line and celebrated his goal instead of loafing around like that” – Werder Bremen’s goalscoring police Davie Selke lets rip at Stuttgart’s Silas Wamangituka for gloriously walking the ball up to an open goal and waiting on the line for an age before poking it home, Fiver Jr-in-the-playground-style. He even copped a booking for it.

Ready, ready …

FIVER LETTERS

“I have always been greatly puzzled by Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s decision-making, but finally I have cracked the nut. He is a man capable of having two directly opposing ideas at the same time, as indicated in the interviews to the BBC and Sky Sports after the win at West Ham. Or was it the effect of the Boris Bowl? To the BBC: ‘We didn’t defend well enough with the ball. We got away with a poor performance.’ To Sky: ‘I am very, very pleased with the performance’”John Weldon.

“On 27 November, Newcastle United beat Crystal Palace thanks in part to much-maligned forward Joelinton scoring a rare goal. On 6 December, Crystal Palace beat West Brom thanks in part to much-maligned forward Christian Benteke scoring a brace. The Baggies play Newcastle next: one of their underachieving strikers is surely nailed on to score a hat-trick. Well, it’s not actually guaranteed, but 2020 keeps getting weirder, and it would be very funny” – Ed Taylor.

“A late contender for sore loser of the year, one very unhappy canary, Daniel Farke, after his table-toppers were thumped 3-1 by Luton last week, including the 1,000 home fans (dotted around three stands) influenced the officials” – Yvonne Fletcher.

Send your letters to [email protected]. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’the day prize is … John Weldon.

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NEWS, BITS AND BOBS

Colchester chairman Robbie Cowling has a strong message for some of the 1,000 U’s fans who booed players taking a knee against Grimsby. “They should just stay away from our club because anyone that still wants to boo now that I have explained the purpose and importance of the taking of the knee is not welcome,” he said. “I will be happy to refund anyone for the remaining value of their season permit.”

Meanwhile, QPR players have asked to change the club’s policy and will now perform the gesture at Millwall on Tuesday in what manager Mark Warburton described as a show of “solidarity” after booing at the Den on Saturday.

Millwall players take a knee as Colin Kazim-Richards raises his fist.

Liverpool view Fabinho as an Al Capone-like “untouchable” and plan to give the £100,000-a-week jack-of-all-trades a bumper new contract.

A 1-1 draw with St Johnstone has set the Queen’s Celtic Countdown clock ticking again for Neil Lennon, who just can’t work out what the potentially job-saving conundrum is. “Can I turn it around? Yes, of course I can,” he blabbed. “Will I get the time to do it? Well …”

Sam Kerr scored a hat-trick in Chelsea’s 3-2 WSL win over West Ham and then flamin’ knacked herself celebrating. “I don’t know what the situation is with Sam,” sighed Blues boss Emma Hayes.

Ronald Koeman unwrapped an oven-ready excuse for his side’s bobbins display in the 2-1 defeat at Cádiz. “We are killing our players with these schedules,” he fumed after Ousmane Dembélé twanged a hamstring. “It’s a real shame to lose another player to [knack].”

And former Hibs keeper John Burridge has revealed the grim lengths Hearts fans would go to to disrupt his motorbike commute to training. “I was rushing one day and put my helmet on and, as I got to the traffic lights, I thought ‘what the hell is that?’” he gagged. “And brown [stuff] started coming down my face – somebody had sh!t in my flipping helmet.”

STILL WANT MORE?

The top 100 female footballers for 2020 are coming

Mikel Arteta has done some good things in his year at Arsenal but he’s still not addressed a lack of creativity in midfield, so says Nick Ames.

Will the Kane-Son love story have a romantic ending this season? Barney Ronay is a big fan of this season’s Spurs rom-com.

Ten talking points from the Premier League weekend, right here. And here’s your WSL review, courtesy of Rachel Brown-Finnis.

Here you go.

Sid Lowe on the state of things at Barcelona.

Torino showed why they are European masters of the late collapse against Juventus, writes Nicky Bandini.

Have Leipzig become Bayern’s greatest Bundesliga irritant, asks Andy Brassell.

Oh, and if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!

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